In Response to Gabe Zicherman, on HuffPo

This was originally written as a comment, so I assume in here that you’ve read the post on HuffPo — linked here.  It’s short — I’ll wait.  

Done?  Good.  Moving on …. 


Couple things:

First off, Gabe is interesting to read, but in the games industry is generally considered to be more of a salesman, pushing his version of gamification on the world promising big returns. It should be noted that he is not well respected within the games industry as a whole outside of gamification niche he himself created.

1) He makes some sweeping claims in his article about the alleged impact of violent games without really citing any sources. Such as the documented affiliation with violent video games and mass murders. That evidence does not exist — there’s been nothing but light connections of, “oh he used to play video games…” Gabe makes comments similar to this one throughout the piece, attempting to pass off anecdotal thoughts as a supporting case in his article.

2) According to the FTC, video games have the highest rate of compliance with ratings of any medium (citation: While the study can’t do anything to look at those who bought age-inappropriate games for kids, it does show that at least the retailers will not sell to kids themselves.

3) Violent video games are not the norm. They are the most publicized, but they account for only about 1/4th of all games sold, where as those rated E for Everyone, account for just shy of 40% of all games made in the 2011 year. This same study linked also shows significant doubt in a casual correlation between video games and violent behavior, citing instead the violence amongst the young has actually *decreased* since the mid-90s when video games started entering the mainstream. (

4) The supreme court ruled in 2011 that no state could criminalize the sales of violent video games to minors — the same precedent holds true for parents. As a parent, I should have the final say in what my child is able to experience, not the government. Even if some legislation were to be passed, it would guaranteed be struck down immediately based on this precedent. (

So, the crux of the issue here is whether video games cause violent crime. I offer what I openly admit to anecdotal evidence — with such a large portion of the population *world-wide* playing video games, if there were a direct casual relationship between violent video games and violence, it would be statistically evident. And it’s not.

But what I do think is that games, like any other medium, can take what’s already there, such a strong predisposition to violence, mental health issues, etc. and exacerbate the problem. In my mind, that’s the issue — if we play the 90/10 rule here (which is still probably pretty generous) — how do we handle those 10% who will, due to something pre-existing, have a negative experience from video games?

Gabe puts forth some very questionable suggestions up above. While showing kids self-presevation techniques seems like a no-brainer …. well, it kinda is. The particular urge is pretty hardwired in. It’s tantamount to me, to saying “We should teach kids to breathe, because not enough kids are doing it.” Der.

Gameplay DNA for fingerprinting violent tendencies? Horrible idea. It’s more or less a nicer way of saying games should be subjected to thoughtcrime. Similarly, there are games where the entire point is to defeat your enemy and prove your greater skill — often times thousands upon thousands of times. How do you extrapolate those that are competitive but healthy in this types of games from those who aren’t? The “player-DNA” Gabe mentions in this piece is unreliable and can only be used to identify archtypes of playstyle, not mapping in-game behaviors to real world behaviors. That’s impossible to do. And to suggest it as a route, well — check out Minority Report.

Rewarding gun-free families — if I recall (and I can’t find the citation on this, I apologize) most families in the US don’t actually have guns. Those that do, aren’t the problem. Those that perpetuate these crimes aren’t 5 year olds in their parent’s house. These are pre-meditated, planned, and required significant effort on the part of the individual to achieve — including obtaining guns outside of those that might have already been in their house.

As for a new way to view post-violence within games–this might be the one redeemable idea in this list, but again it assumes that most people/kids cannot make the distinction between video game death, and real-world death. The people who goes on these mass killing sprees — I’m going to venture that they know the difference too. I don’t think the Sandy Hook killer expected himself and all those kids to respawn. He knew the tragedy he would cause — he did it for the tragedy, not because he thought they would come back. Again, Gabe suggests fixing something isn’t really much of a problem (though that’s not to say that it doesn’t bear exploring in game the concept of death more fully — just that it doesn’t really appeal in the context of his arguments).


HuffPo: Games and Gun Violence: Cause and Cure

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